Definitely go to a local user group. In particular, get a good mentor to help you learn. With the sheer volume of what you have to learn, a mentor will be a necessity. He/She would also make a great reference for your job application :-) ... and that will be absolutely critical for you as well given that you will not have work experience in this field.
You are certainly taking a thoughtful and serious approach to this. Congratulations on that, and the very best of luck in your search!
SQL DBA,SQL Server MVP(07, 08, 09) Prosecutor James Blackburn, in closing argument in the Fatal Vision murders trial:
If in the future, you should cry a tear, cry one for them [the murder victims]. If in the future, you should say a prayer, say one for them. And if in the future, you should light a candle, light one for them.